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Crash-testing lithium-ion batteries

June 4, 2013 8:06 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries are lightweight, fully rechargeable and can pack a lot of energy into a small volume—making them attractive as power sources for hybrid and electric vehicles. However, there’s a significant downside: Overheating and collisions may cause the batteries to short-circuit and burst into flames. Engineers have worked to improve the safety of lithium-ion batteries and now there may be ways to make batteries more resilient.

Scientists create novel silicon electrodes to improve lithium-ion batteries

June 4, 2013 7:55 am | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists have dramatically improved the performance of lithium-ion batteries by creating novel electrodes made of silicon and conducting polymer hydrogel, a spongy material similar to that used in contact lenses and other household products. The scientists developed a new technique for producing low-cost, silicon-based batteries with potential applications for a wide range of electrical devices.

Power grid getting smarter with big battery

June 3, 2013 7:30 am | News | Comments

Research conducted with a large new battery unveiled in Oregon will help make the Northwest's and the nation's electric system smarter and more efficient, officials said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Portland General Electric's 5-MW, lithium-ion energy storage system was shared with the public Friday at the utility's Salem Smart Power Center in South Salem, Ore.

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Researchers develop high-efficiency zinc-air battery

May 30, 2013 7:59 am | News | Comments

Stanford University scientists have developed an advanced zinc-air battery with higher catalytic activity and durability than similar batteries made with costly platinum and iridium catalysts. The results could lead to the development of a low-cost alternative to conventional lithium-ion batteries widely used today.

Add boron for better batteries

May 16, 2013 2:20 pm | News | Comments

Frustration led to revelation when Rice University scientists determined how graphene might be made useful for high-capacity batteries. Calculations by the Rice laboratory of theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson found a graphene-boron anode should be able to hold a lot of lithium and perform at a proper voltage for use in lithium-ion batteries.

Team observes real-time charging of a lithium-air battery

May 13, 2013 9:07 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

One of the most promising new kinds of battery to power electric cars is called a lithium-air battery. But progress has been slow. Researchers have used transmission electron microscope (TEM) imaging to observe, at a molecular level, what goes on during a reaction called oxygen evolution as lithium-air batteries charge; this reaction is thought to be a bottleneck limiting further improvements to these batteries.

New technique to improve quality control of lithium-ion batteries

May 8, 2013 7:56 am | News | Comments

Researchers have created a new tool to detect flaws in lithium-ion batteries as they are being manufactured, a step toward reducing defects and inconsistencies in the thickness of electrodes that affect battery life and reliability. The Purdue researchers have developed a system that uses a flashbulb-like heat source and a thermal camera to read how heat travels through the electrodes.

Prototype provides pedestrian power

May 8, 2013 7:44 am | News | Comments

A group of Rice University mechanical engineering students are getting a charge out of having the coolest new shoes on campus. As their capstone project that is required for graduation, four seniors created a way to extract and store energy with every step. Their PediPower shoes turn motion into juice for portable electronics and, perhaps someday, for life-preserving medical devices.

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New technology propels 'old energy' boom

May 4, 2013 11:52 am | by JONATHAN FAHEY - AP Energy Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Technology created an energy revolution over the past decade—just not the one we expected. By now, cars were supposed to be running on fuel made from plant waste or algae—or powered by hydrogen. Electricity would be generated with solar panels and wind turbines. Fossil fuels? They were going to be expensive and scarce. But in the race to conquer energy technology, Old Energy is winning.

Japan to allow airlines to resume 787 flights

April 26, 2013 3:58 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Japan's transport minister says the government is poised to allow Japanese carriers to resume flying the Boeing 787 once they complete repairs to problematic lithium ion batteries. Transport Minister Akihiro Ohta says in a statement on the ministry's Website that the approval could come as early as Friday night following an expected official safety order from U.S. federal regulators.

New battery design could help solar and wind power the grid

April 24, 2013 3:58 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid. The developers believe their new membrane-free battery, based on lithium and sulfur, may be the best yet designed to regulate alternative energies.

A Close Eye on Nanotechnology

April 24, 2013 12:30 pm | by Lindsay Hock | Articles | Comments

Nanotechnology typically describes any material, device, or technology where feature sizes are smaller than 100 nanometers in dimension. However, this new and uncharted direction in research provides a large spark for new product and drug delivery development. To achieve these discoveries, scientists must rely on specialized instruments and materials to drive their experiments and analysis.

NTSB probes safety testing of Boeing 787 batteries

April 23, 2013 3:24 am | by JOAN LOWY - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

As airlines prepare to begin flying Boeing's beleaguered 787 Dreamliners again, federal investigators are looking at how regulators and the company tested and approved the plane's cutting-edge battery system, and whether the government cedes too much authority to aircraft makers for safety testing.

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New microbatteries a boost for electronics

April 17, 2013 7:57 am | News | Comments

Though they be but little, they are fierce. The most powerful batteries on the planet are only a few millimeters in size, yet they pack such a punch that a driver could use a cellphone powered by these batteries to jump-start a dead car battery—and then recharge the phone in the blink of an eye. Developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the new microbatteries out-power even the best supercapacitors.

Building a better capacitor with custom nanorods

April 16, 2013 1:00 pm | News | Comments

As an energy-storage material for batteries and capacitors, manganese dioxide has a lot going for it. However, chemical capacitors made with manganese dioxide have lacked the power of the typical carbon-based physical capacitor. A Michigan Technological University theorized that the situation could be improved if the manganese dioxide were made into nanorods, which are like nanotubes, only solid instead of hollow.

ORNL leads study focused on afterlife of electric vehicle batteries

April 15, 2013 4:15 pm | News | Comments

Once they've finished powering electric vehicles for hundreds of thousands of miles, it may not be the end of the road for automotive batteries. Five used Chevrolet Volt batteries are at the heart of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's effort to determine the feasibility of a community energy storage system that would put electricity onto the grid.

Better batteries from waste sulfur

April 15, 2013 8:17 am | News | Comments

A new chemical process can transform waste sulfur into a lightweight plastic that may improve batteries for electric cars, reports a University of Arizona-led team. The new plastic has other potential uses, including optical uses. The team has successfully used the new plastic to make lithium-sulfur batteries.

Engineers craft material for high-performance supercapacitor

April 15, 2013 8:01 am | News | Comments

Taking a significant step toward improving the power delivery of systems ranging from urban electrical grids to regenerative braking in hybrid vehicles, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles have synthesized a material that shows high capability for both the rapid storage and release of energy.

Tin nanocrystals for the battery of the future

April 9, 2013 6:17 pm | by Fabio Bergamin, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

More powerful batteries could help electric cars achieve a considerably larger range and thus a breakthrough on the market. A new nanomaterial made from tiny tin crystals, deployed at the anode of lithium-ion batteries, has been developed in the labs of chemists in Europe and enables considerably more power to be stored in these batteries.

Tortuous paths hamper ion transport

April 9, 2013 5:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland have used X-ray tomography to screen lithium-ion battery electrodes and have reconstructed these microstructures in high resolution. The flow behavior of the lithium ions, they have found, can be described by what is known as tortuosity. To put it simply, the more twisted the path of the ions through the electrode, the more slowly the battery is charged or discharged.

Battery research at NSLS aims to solve energy storage challenges

April 5, 2013 9:17 am | News | Comments

The shrinking size and increasing capacity of batteries in the past few decades has made possible devices that have transformed everyday life. But small isn't the only frontier for battery technology. As the world enters its most energy-intensive era, the search is on for bigger, cheaper, and safer batteries that can capture, store, and efficiently use sustainable energy on a large scale. To determine how best to meet those large-scale energy needs, researchers are probing small-scale, off-the-shelf D-cell batteries.

A longer life for lithium-sulfur batteries

April 4, 2013 4:39 pm | News | Comments

Electric cars are still an iffy proposition for most consumers because of the limited range offered by lithium-ion battery. A promising avenue of research is the lithium-sulfur battery, which is significantly more powerful and less expensive than the better-known lithium-ion battery. Although their short lifespan has made them unsuitable before now, this may be about to change if development work in Germany is successful.

Fake Shewanella reveals how bacteria breathe iron

March 26, 2013 8:13 am | News | Comments

Certain bacteria can breathe iron like we breathe oxygen. Understanding how they do so will help researchers use the microbes for cleaning up soil contaminants, for trapping carbon dioxide, or for making batteries out of bacteria. Now, a team of researchers report that proteins on the surface of bacteria produce an electric current by simply touching a mineral surface, allowing them to breathe the iron in the rock.

Boeing 787 makes test flight to check battery

March 25, 2013 10:27 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

A Boeing 787 with a redesigned battery system made a 2-hour test flight on Monday, and the company said the event "went according to plan." The test flight was an important step in Boeing Co.'s plan to convince safety regulators to let airlines resume using the plane, which the company calls the Dreamliner.

Hybrid ribbons a gift for powerful batteries

March 25, 2013 12:21 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice University | News | Comments

According to recent research at Rice University, vanadium oxide and graphene may be a key new set of materials for improving lithium-ion storage. Ribbons created at Rice from these two materials are thousands of times thinner than a sheet of paper, yet have potential that far outweighs current materials for their ability to charge and discharge very quickly. Initial capacity remains at 90% or more after more than 1,000 cycles.

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